February 12, 1943 – President Roosevelt Addresses The White House Correspondents Dinner – Past Daily Reference Room
February 12 was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday – this address given by FDR on the occasion of Lincoln’s Birthday was also an assessment of the recently concluded Casablanca Conference.
Here is an excerpt from that complete address:
President Roosevelt: “. . . I could not truthfully deny to our troops that a few chiselers, a few politicians, and a few—to use a polite term—publicists -fortunately a very few- have placed their personal ambition or greed above the Nation’s interests.
Our troops know that the Nazis and the Fascists and the Japanese are trying hard to sell the untruths of propaganda to certain types of Americans. But our troops also know that even if you pile up a lot of molehills of deception one on top of the other, you still cannot make a mountain big enough, or high enough, or solid enough to fool many people, or to block the road to victory and to an effective peace.
I think a fundamental of an effective peace is the assurance to those men who are fighting our battles, that when they come home they will find a country with an economy firm enough and fair enough to provide jobs for all those who are willing to work.
I am certain that private enterprise will be able to provide the vast majority of those jobs, and in those cases where this cannot be accomplished that the Congress of the United States will pass the legislation that will make good the assurance of earning a living.
There are still a few men who say we cannot achieve this and other honorable, reasonable aims for the postwar period. And in speaking of those professional skeptics—those men of little faith -there comes to my mind an old word in our language- the word “petriloggers.”
The formal dictionary definition and derivation of the word are neither here nor there. To most of us “pettifogger” brings to mind a man who is small, mean and tricky, and picayune. In a word—petty. It is the type of man who is always seeking to create a smoke screen and fog, for the purpose of obscuring the plain truth. And you and I know some pettifoggers.
Today, those pettifoggers are attempting to obscure the essential truths of this war. They are seeking to befog the present and the future, and the clear purposes and the high principles for which the free world now maintains the promise of undimmed victory.
To use one example, in a small sector of the world’s surface in North Africa—we are now massing armies—British, French, and American- for one of the major battles of this war.
The enemy’s purpose in the battle of Tunisia is to hold at all costs their last bridgehead in Africa, to prevent us from gaining access to the Straits that lead to Nazi-dominated Europe.
Our prime purpose in this battle of Tunisia is to drive our enemies into the sea.
The British First Army in this battle, commanded by General Anderson, contains many veterans of Flanders and Dunkirk. Those men have a score to settle with the Nazis, and they are going to even that score.
The British Eighth Army, commanded by General Montgomery, has to its eternal credit the smashing defeat of Marshal Rommel’s Army, and the now historic fifteen-hundred-mile pursuit of those once triumphant Nazi-Fascist forces.
The enemy in Tunisia will be attacked from the south by this great Eighth Army, and by the French forces who have made a remarkable march all the way across the Sahara Desert under General Le Clerc, one of General de Gaulle’s officers. From the west the enemy will be attacked by the combined forces of British and Americans, together with French troops under the command of General Giraud.
And I think that we take a certain satisfaction tonight that all of these forces are commanded by General Eisenhower. I spent many hours in Casablanca with this young general- a descendant of Kansas pioneers. I know what a fine, tough job he has done, and how carefully and skillfully he is directing the soldiers under him. I want to say to you tonight—and to him—that we have every confidence in his leadership. High tribute was paid to his qualities as a man when the British Government, through Mr. Churchill, took the lead at Casablanca in proposing him for the supreme command of all the great Allied operations which are imminent in North Africa.
The deputy to General Eisenhower is General Alexander, one of Britain’s greatest fighting men. He commanded all the British forces in the Middle East, including the Eighth Army that won the decisive battle at El Alamein. He and General Montgomery planned that engagement and the stupendous advance that followed. At this moment—as I speak to you tonight—General Alexander is standing at the right hand of General Eisenhower planning new military operations.
These important facts reveal not merely cooperation but active collaboration between the United Nations. Let these facts be duly noted by our enemies.”
A President being Presidential – here is that complete address, as it was given on February 12, 1943.